With training camp around the corner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have a big running back battle ahead.
Bucs insider Rick Stroud talked about how rookie Rachaad White could gain an edge over Leonard Fournette during the “Sports Day Tampa Bay” podcast on Monday, July 18. Fournette came to minicamp in June overweight at 260 pounds, Stroud noted, and coaches didn’t like what they saw.
“Coaches were not happy, and that’s an understatement, when [Fournette] didn’t participate in the OTAs, but then he shows up at the mandatory minicamp weighing d*** near 260 [pounds],” Stroud said on his podcast. “And that’s not a good sign for a guy that you’ve just spent a three-year contract on.”
“If White impresses in training camp, and Fournette doesn’t impress the coaching staff when he reports for duty this time around, [Tom] Brady might end up looking to the rookie as his new go-to receiver out of the backfield,” Stroud noted.
Fournette re-signed with the Bucs in March for a three-year deal for $21 million and could pay up to $24 million. The Bucs then picked White in the third round of April’s NFL Draft.
Brady has a long history of throwing to running backs, and Fournette filled that role last season with 69 receptions for 454 yards and two touchdowns. White notably caught 43 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown in 11 games for Arizona State last year.
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Brady ‘Is Going to Be Happy’
Arizona State head coach and former ESPN analyst Herm Edwards raved about the Bucs pick and how Brady will like it. White, a 6-foot-0, 214-pound back, gives the team a burst of speed with his 4.48-second 40-yard dash.
“[Brady] is going to be happy, trust me,” Edwards told Sports Illustrated’s Bucs Gameday. “He’s going to say, ‘Boy this guy here, he’s pretty good. I can throw him the ball and all of the sudden…he can make a couple people miss and he’s running down the field.’ Last time I checked, that’s kind of important.”
White also came to Tampa Bay with eyes on Fournette’s job.
“What I’m looking forward to for the Buccaneers, I know they’re going to put me into a great situation, great spot,” White said on “The Jim Rome Show” in May. “My expectation, my goal is I’m going in there competing. I want to be the starting running back. That’s how it go. I know I got Lenny in front of me. I’m going to soak up a lot of knowledge from Lenny and that running back room, Giovani Bernard. That’s just the type of guy I am, but I’m always a competitor first.”
Fournette didn’t agree with the weight issue when he called out FS1’s Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless for commenting on it in June. Fournette has since shown off his progress in a few workout videos on social media following his retort, which included “I’ve always work my [expletive] off” and that it will motivate him.
Last season Fournette, who weighed 228 pounds last season, rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries. He emerged as the lead back in 2021, and he looks to keep that role in 2022.